language, of the Pama-Nyungan
family, spoken (or once spoken) in southern Queensland
in the area north of the towns of Charleville
. It can also be spelt Pitjara
, and has closely related dialects called Gungabula
, among others.
See under Australian Aboriginal languages for an overview; I present Bidyara as a typical Aboriginal language, and the only one for which I have details to hand. The study I am using was made by Gavin Breen in 1967-1972, when the surviving speakers were elderly.
Its sound system is typical for an Aboriginal language. Its consonants B DH D RD DY G could equally well be written P TH T RT TY K. The sound D is alveolar as in English; DH is interdental, that is similar to Spanish or French T and D but the tongue is between the teeth; and RD is a retroflex stop as occurs in Indian languages.
The same distinction between interdental and alveolar occurs in NH and N; there is also a palatal NY and a velar NG. The single R represents a glide as in English, and RR is a flap. There are three vowels A I U.
Bidyara has SOV word order:
ngurrandu waya badhala
dog wallaby bite
'The dog bit the wallaby'
It is ergative, meaning it is the subject of a transitive sentence that is specially marked.
mardindu ngurra badhala
man dog bite
'The man bit the dog'
'The dog is playing'
In these the -ndu
marks the ergative.
But pronouns and some kinship terms are not marked for ergative. Instead they may take the accusative -na.
ngaya ngurra badhala
'I bit the dog'
ngurra ngadyuna badhala
'The dog bit me'
s indicate various functions, such as:
for indefinite location:
= 'on (my) leg'
= 'beside/with the woman'
= 'in the night'
ngaya gamu-gu wadyana = 'I am going for water'
yurdi ngurran-gu = 'meat for the dog'
and for definite location:
ngaya baga-gu walabanala = 'I sat in the tree'
ngaya mardi-mundu dhulbanala = 'I hid from the man'
dhala-mundu = '(made} out of bushes'
munda-mundu = '(away) from the snake'
Adjectives and nouns can be formed with -bayi 'having', which is also a case form: wudya-bayi 'with a lot (of)', gaba-bayi 'with some honey', yarraman-bayi 'on horseback', dhunman-bayi 'muddy'.
The pronouns are singular ngaya 'I', yinda 'you', nhula 's/he, it; in the dual ngali 'we two', yubalu 'you two', bula 'they two'; and in the plural ngana 'we', yura 'you', dhana 'they'.
These have inflections like nouns (but partly irregular): ngadyuna 'me', ngadyu 'my', ngadyunda 'with me', ngadyunmundu 'from me'.
The plain form of the verb is the simple imperative: naga 'watch'. There is also a continuous imperative naga-ni 'keep watching', a weaker form naga-dhu 'you'd better watch', and a dual/plural form naga-ra 'watch'. There is also an optional plural affix, as in naga-lgarri 'you lot watch', naga-lgarri-ni 'you lot keep watching'.
The tense is also marked by suffixes: badhana 'bites', badhala 'bit', badhanga 'will bite'.
The purposive verb form is better illustrated in a sentence:
ngadyunda baru gumbama, ngaya burdi bandya-lgu
to-me axe lend I wood chop-PURPOSIVE
'Lend me an axe so that I can chop wood.'
A simple sentence does not require a verb 'to be': ngaya guliginy 'I am old'. The suffix -langa indicates an impermanent state: yamba dhundha-langa 'the ground is wet'.
Continuative states are formed by prolonging the final vowel before the tense suffix:
warrala 'played', warraala 'was playing'
nagana 'sees', nagaana 'is looking at'
There is another suffix meaning the action moves along:
ngarrgu dhumbala 'the kangaroo jumped'
ngarrgu dhumba-ndyarra-la 'the kangaroo hopped along'
There are some optional affixes when the object is dual or plural, one for sense verbs and one for others.
ngaya yura-na yimba-la = 'I heard you'
ngaya yuranya-na yimba-rda-la = 'I heard you lot'
ngaya ngarrgu guni-la = 'I killed a kangaroo'
ngaya ngarrgu guni-ma-la = 'I killed kangaroos'
This is enough to begin to convey the grammatical complexity and the sounds of the average Aboriginal language.